Short Stack Strategy

written by: John

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During your poker career there will be a times where you face a bad beat, make a bad play or have been blinded down to the point to where you have a short stack in comparison to your opponents. When faced with this situation many players will just figure they were better off giving up and will shove their stack in with any two cards. Although this can be an arguably reasonable decision, many times players do not have to resort to this type of strategy so quickly. In fact, from personal experience I can state that it is quite possible to come back from having as little as 50 chips to go on to cash or even win.

So, how do you do it? Well, for starters there is going to be a bit of luck involved but aside from that, it is just about getting your stack in at the right times and from there you just hope for the best.

To guide you on the right path to being a successful short stacker, we have provided some tips for you below. Many of these strategies and tips will generally apply to tournaments and sit n go's.

Short Stack Tips

Pay Attention to the Blinds

What may make you think you are a short stack is just the fact that you are shorter stacked then everyone else around you. But that is not really true until you have less than 10 big blinds or so.

Now, in the scenario that you are less than 10 big blinds you will want to pay attention to what the blinds are, where they are at on the table and when they are moving up next. The reason for all of this is that if you are right at 10 big blinds or maybe 8 to 9, it may be worthwhile to wait another orbit before you shove your stack in. Obviously, you are going to shove with a much wider range, but unless you absolutely have to you are going to still want to shove with 2 decent cards and not trash.

You will also want to pay attention to the blinds simply because you want to be sure not to be blinded out. There will be times when it is correct to shove trash like 2-7, Q-4 or J-3 and making the decision to shove is much better than the decision being made for you.

Table Images

Although this will not make or break your decision to push, you still may want to consider your table image and the images of your opponents.

For example, if you have been extremely loose the whole game (hence you being short stacked maybe?) then your opponents are more than likely going to call your shoves which would mean that you may want to try pushing with a tighter range to ensure you have a better hand in the event that you are racing. On the other hand, if you have been tight the whole game you still may have some fold equity and can shove a much wider range since your shoves will be respected some.

Now, you need to pay attention to your opponents as well. Someone who is extremely tight is going to be by far more exploitable than someone who is loose or is a calling station. You will not always have an option, but if you are not completely crippled, be sure to try and choose solid hands to push with if you think you are going to have a passive player/calling station call you.

Stack Sizes

When deciding when to shove it is important to consider stack sizes. Generally, medium stack sizes that are not huge but also are not short are solid stacks to target if possible. The reason is that they are not necessarily desperate for chips and do not want to risk their position in the game on a coin flip.

Other short stacks can be targeted as well but it is important to consider that they will be calling wider than normal as well, so you will want to be sure to have a solid hand if at all possible.

Bigger stacks that dominate the table and can afford to take the hit should be avoided unless you are pushing with a solid pair or two high cards. It will depend on the player's image and their position in the game, but if they can afford to take you out, they may take the chance to do so.

Be the one to shove, not the one to call

This of course still follows the general rules of the Gap Concept. When someone else is pushing, they are simply telling everyone that they obviously like their hand and are willing to risk their chips with it. So unless you have a pair or A-K, you will more than likely need to fold.

• Always be the first one shoving in the pot as this puts pressure on the other players.

Being Short Stack in Poker

Simply put, you are not going to always come back from being short stacked. As we mentioned above, there is some luck involved because in many cases, you are going to be racing and in these cases, you will not be better than a coin flip at that. It should also be noted that many of these tips are circumstantial. Meaning, sometimes you will not have a choice but to put your chips in the middle regardless of your opponents, your hand or whatever; you will just have to do it. But in the situations where you can choose what you do, be sure to use our tips above as they should help give you a fighting chance in a game where anything can happen.